JANUARY 6TH 2018 — Maintaining the right diet is extremely important during pregnancy. According to articles from the BBC and Time Magazine, it can impact a baby’s heart risk and help mitigate a lifetime of cancer risk. Celebrities like Jessica Biel have started sourcing whole foods directly from local organic farmers during their pregnancy. Maintaining a diet rich in whole foods, however, is hard enough even when you’re not facing pregnancy cravings.
Jessica Glago, along with her husband Sachin Hedge, saw the need and built ‘Wholesome’ to help with the demand. “The information that affects your health and the health of your baby is now widely known, but the tools to help you eat better are not keeping up,” said Glago.
‘Wholesome,’ available on iOS, analyzes a user’s nutrition and suggests whole foods to eat next in order to get all the macro and micronutrients that he or she needs for the day. It can also analyze nutrition trends over time as compared to USDA recommendations.
“For example, a pregnant woman is recommended to have 27 mg of iron each day. That’s three times more than a man,” said Glago. “Wholesome automatically sets your goals based on your profile settings. It even has a setting for post-pregnancy so that you can get the best nutrition while you’re breastfeeding.”
Folic acid is a good example of a nutrient that’s known to be particularly critical for a healthy pregnancy because it protects against neural tube defects. Doctors prescribe it to every woman of childbearing age. Few moms know, however, that folic acid is actually the synthetic form of a naturally occurring nutrient called ‘folate,’ which can be found abundantly in whole foods such as asparagus, edamame, and lentils. “There is no reason you couldn’t get enough folate from your diet with a tracking tool like Wholesome. In fact, it’s much safer than taking the synthetic form,” said Glago. Her point is driven home by the fact that a subset of the population has trouble metabolizing folic acid. For these people it can stay in the body and even do harm, a process that several studies have linked to cancer. Folate, in contrast and even in excess, is perfectly safe.
Wholesome is the first experience to make it possible to know what is missing from a user’s diet and help fill in the gaps with whole foods. “In the future, doctors will be giving out nutrition advice rather than just pills,” said Glago, “and with the lack of evidence to support that synthetic supplements are beneficial to one’s health, it’s great to have an app that allows you to be less reliant on them.”
While other tracking apps can feel meticulous or prove hard to keep up with, the Wholesome founders have striven to create a lightweight solution. “By relying on recipes that already exist in Wholesome, you don’t need to spend much energy inputting ingredients in order to get nutritional information and food suggestions,” said Hegde.
Every recipe that is added to Wholesome is leveraged by the entire community, giving everyone instant access to it. Users can also connect with Facebook to see what recipes their friends are collecting.
But Wholesome is not just a recipe curator, it does a deep analysis of the nutrition of each recipe. Each recipe is scored on a 10-point scale based on its nutritional punch. The score is calculated based on nutrition per calorie and deductions are made for things like too much cholesterol, sugar, or sodium. “It offers you a quick way to know how healthy a recipe is other than just looking at the picture or recipe title,” said Hegde. “Sometimes, the recipe photo that looks really healthy or the one that has ‘vegan’ in the title isn’t really as healthy as it appears.”
Wholesome aims to teach users about nutrition in a way that doesn’t feel heavy-handed. The app lets users browse whole foods, view their nutrition and even gives tips on how to cook foods to yield the most nutrition. “If you want to find the best food sources of a nutrient like iron, you can do that too,” Hedge said.
The couple is excited about what’s to come, including intelligent meal planning and health benefit tagging. “When you add recipes to your weekly plan, Wholesome will start to suggest recipes and foods to complete your nutrition and it will pick ones with the health benefits that you care about,” said Glago. “So if you’re pregnant and you want to find recipes that promote fetal development, you can easily do that.”
The app is free to download for iOS in the App Store and is currently seeking funding to develop an Android version. A pro version is also available with additional features, including tracking and suggestions. Wholesome is also helping those who are managing their own health conditions. “Many of our users are using Wholesome to get critical information that they need to manage their health problems such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and G6PD blood deficiency. It’s an incredible feeling to have that kind of impact on people’s lives,” said Glago. “There is nothing else in the market like it.”